Viva Barcelona: Another Adult Stem Cell SuccessNov. 19, 2008
Buried in the back of all the papers today, barely rating a mention on television or radio was news from Barcelona, Spain of a huge victory. Not one for the city's famed soccer team, though it, too, is doing very well this year (atop La Liga). But, rather, a medical victory. Claudia Castillo, a 30-year-old Colombian mother of two and Barcelona resident, suffered from tuberculosis (see Bloomberg's objective report, here). The disease damaged her lungs and collapsed one of them. It prevented her from caring for her children, much less even walking any substantial distance. At first, doctors thought they would have to remove the damaged lung. Instead, as if from a "House" scene, one doctor proposed a radical idea — a windpipe (trachea) transplant to revive the damaged lung's functionality. The problem was the inherent risk of rejection. The doctors turned to stem cells. Adult stem cells.
After finding a donor windpipe, doctors stripped it of all its cells (WebMD has a layman's explanation, here). In the meantime, they took bone marrow from Castillo herself and created — from her own source — the millions of cartilage and tissue cells needed to connect it to her lungs, thus minimizing, if not excluding, any rejection risk at all. Basically, a transplant via stem cell. So far, so good. She even went out dancing recently and can walk regular distances without problems. More important, she can care for her children again. According to reports, her lung capacity now is normal for a woman her age. The results are published in the UK medical journal The Lancet (click here).
This surgery, though not a sure success — many experts think it will take three years to see if the results have permanance — is a major breakthrough by any standard. Perhaps rivaling the first heart transplant. It could end up helping thousands. However, it hasn't been played up in the media. Where it has, there's been a curious bit of lack of reporting. The Associated Press, for example, in an article by Maria Cheng, did not once mention that the stem cells were "adult," leaving a misleading impression by significant omission(see an in-depth commentary, here, on stem cell facts and myths).
But the fact is, adult stem cell research has led to scores of advances, cures and treatments. Embryonic stem cells, nada. While Senorita Castillo won't ever play futbol for the famed blue and red of Barca, that type of score is one very familiar to its fans. It's also become an accustomed reality to those in the know about medical research, despite what liberals and their media allies would have us believe.
Here's an idea of the route adult stem cells have over the unproven embryonic stem cells: